University of Zurich Semester 6, Year 3
M.A. Elizabeth Kollmann
Introduction to Textual Analysis
An Analysis of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Auf der Halten 24
079 587 10 82 May 2015
When reading A Midsummer Night’s Dream one has to bear in mind that the comedy was written in the late 16th century. As society has changed drastically in the past four centuries, it is crucial to examine the historicity of the play in order to fully understand it. By the time Shakespeare wrote A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Elizabeth I ruled over England. Despite the fact that the country’s monarch was a woman, the conviction that women were not created to wield power over men prevailed (Greenblatt 18). Women generally had very restricted social, economic, and legal rights (Greenblatt 9). The father of the family traditionally dominated over his wife and children (Greenblatt 10). Furthermore, society was highly hierarchically stratified. As Freedman (155) points out, many critics have detected that A Midsummer Night’s Dream justifies this gender and class oppression. On the other hand, there are critics like Bronfen (189) who state that Shakespeare’s comedy does not only represent, but is also critical of the culture it emerged from. I will elaborate on this point and see where and how the play diverges from the status quo at that time and how this can be interpreted. I will argue that Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream challenges the social order of Elizabethan England.
Rather than being flat characters, the characters in A Midsummer Night’s Dream are labels. They are defined according to what they represent (Fender 20). This is to say that their function is more important than their individuality. Fender’s (14) statement that after reading or watching the play it is difficult to remember...